JOPLIN, Mo. — Few high school graduates can remember who delivered their commencement address - unless of course it was the President of the United States. President Barack Obama did the honors in Joplin Monday, nearly a year to the day after the EF5 tornado took out the high school and a good portion of the city.
Whether a fan of his politics or not most friends and family of the 428 member Joplin High School senior class were honored the president sent their loved ones out into the real world, but Monday was special with or without him.
Bruce Newton has been working towards this moment for 18 years.
"You get your kids through school and she's getting to graduate; I'm so proud of her."
So proud he's not even irked he couldn't get a seat in the main auditorium to see his daughter accept her diploma. He's in overflow; the commencement speaker may have something to do with that.
"It's the office of the president, and these kids and this graduating class, it's going to be a dig deal, bigger than ever," he tells us. But still: "I'm more excited to see her."
"It's more about her," another family agrees of their sister and daughter.
"I'm excited to see my daughter, but of course I'm excited to see the president," says another mom.
That's the general consensus at Missouri Southern State University moments before the Joplin High School graduation. Of course President Obama is an added draw and for some the sole reason for coming.
"It's an event," a man who traveled from Kansas City tells us. "I may get to see him come in and out, that's close enough."
"I'm just excited to know I was in the building right next to where he was speaking," an 11-year-old girl exclaims.
Newton's excited to know he was in the building right next to where the young lady he still calls "Little" achieved a major milestone. Everything else is secondary.
"I'm going to watch her on the screen and when it's over go outside and be right there to hug her and tell her congratulations."
Newton is himself a graduate of Joplin High School, class of 1979, although back then it was called Parkwood. His daughter finished her senior year at the temporary high school set up in the local mall.